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Picture Parlour – Norwegian Wood Review

Creasing up against the wall, brushing past the alleged, nepotism-shaped elephant in the flaming Twitter room, comes Picture Parlour and Norwegian Wood. Pick up any of those big arena music mags and there they are, front and centre after one song and just over a year of grafting away. There is no time limit to success, but now the cards are stacked against the band and their front-page outrage, and all they have is Norwegian Wood to show for it. That, and the word-of-mouth which has skipped over the town with no trains. Being out of the social bubble as you pack your life into boxes to move out and into a flat close to a Greggs and a pub with BT Sports and Sky does not lend itself to sitting around, waiting for bands to fall into your lap. But until the splash, there did not seem to be a buzz about them beyond the capital, and barely anywhere online. 

Now there is, and for the wrong reasons. It is impossible to chat Norwegian Wood without slicing through a PR campaign. To come out the other end not covered in bile from either side of the debate is difficult. Fun, though. Equally fun is listening to the placid tones of the squeaky-clean indie-ready production on Norwegian Wood. Industry plant or not, the first Picture Parlour track is not quite the blast of sonic force it has been written up to be, nor the scathing, interesting track their live performances show it as. Live life sapped from it and a sleeker fit of instrumentals drags it away from the harsher and emotive style the song has in those clips from a couple of gigs. Norwegian Wood has a momentum which carries bands to better projects, but it is hard to figure out what image, what style, or what new texture Picture Parlour provides the indie landscape.  

Liquidated businesses and the hurt of the truth bring about a slathering of late-game Arctic Monkeys, their spaced-out sentimentalities providing a new base for the next wave of indie musicians to be discovered or shoved to the front of the queue. Or at least this is how Norwegian Wood feels its way through flashy spats of instrumental non-specifics and a vocalist whose range is explored well. Strong vocals too, toured under an ever-rising guitar riff which feels staggered, hammering away with obvious and well-placed references to the work of Haruki Murakami. The writing is all there, sharp non-sequiturs jut out and stab in nicely. Listeners are right to be suspicious of anyone called the next big thing or a “word-of-mouth sensation” when little buzz surrounds them, but there is a sense of earnestness, of honesty, and of clarity to Picture Parlour and their efforts. Crawl out of the toxic pot, new music has dropped, and for once, it is not on Friday. 

Still, not everyone bags the man who produced Suede records over the last decade for their first-ever, seemingly unsigned release. Bands do burst onto the scene, although middle-of-the-road tracks like Norwegian Wood are not going to set the world, or genre, alight. Turn this nepotism allegation on its head. What we can learn from this is significant music journalism and its streamlined prominence in the UK capital is a squeeze on the lifeblood of better cities, where more music is born, and less of it is heard. Picture Parlour can be proud of their roots, as Whenyoung can, as Yard Act can, and Sam Fender, Wet Leg and a host of musicians from across the country who, eventually, find themselves buzzing around the London circuit. The capital is where they must shake the hands and brush the shoulders of those who can get them to the next level. Something must change there. Bigshots down south seem to be the decider in what is and is not. A front cover proves this to an extent. Only so much of this professional and squeaky-clean push for a debut single can be down to luck. A solid start, blown out by the controversy of its sudden appearance.

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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